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$3 million Ellwood proposal preserves open space on coast

23 March 2004

NEWS-PRESS Staff Writer

A new $3 million proposal revealed Monday calls for major changes to the Ellwood-Devereux Coast, including trails, parking, and habitat preservation across the picturesque wildland.

Goleta, UCSB and Santa Barbara County officials released an 86-page vision for the 652- acre open space beloved for its bluffs and monarch butterfly roosting zones. This follows months of field research and public comment aimed at making recreation and conservation there more compatible.

"It's a rare opportunity," said Shari Hammond, a UCSB senior planner. "It's a very positive effort among all three jurisdictions."

The Open Space and Habitat Management Plan is one part of a larger effort to shift proposed homes away from the fragile coastline and comes as the first of several important government documents to be released before the end of next week in connection with the windswept area.

The plan allows hiking, jogging, picnics, bicycling and horseback riding, while other uses including motorcycle riding are banned. If realized, the blueprint will bring dozens of visible changes including new trail surfaces, two new restrooms, rustic benches, trash cans, wetland crossings, beach stairways, signs, and temporary fences to protect restoration efforts.

But it won't happen all at once. “These public amenities will be established by the sponsoring agencies over time,” according to the plan.

The $3 million cost would be divided among Goleta , UCSB, and the county.

Moreover, success of the plan is tied to the outcome of a proposed land-swap announced in 2002, in which the Trust for Public Land would buy a 137-acre portion of the property from Comstock Homes and Development Partners for more than $20 million, then give it to Goleta as a park

The city, in turn, would give the developer-owners 36 acres of nearby Santa Barbara Shores Park for construction of 78 homes, a project subject to Coastal Commission approval. An environmental review of the proposal is scheduled for release today.

So far, the trust has raised more than $13 million, including a recent $4 million grant sought by Assemblywoman Hannah Beth Jackson, D. Santa Barbara, from the state Wildlife Conservation Board. Trust managers hope to have the rest of the money by year's end.

In addition, USCG, would relocate 236 units of proposed faculty housing and 151 units of proposed student housing to sites away from the coast.

An environmental review of these projects is scheduled for release next week along with a Santa Barbara county review of 32 single-family homes, two employee apartments and 21 condos planned for 9.5 acres of Ocean Meadows Golf Course.

People have used the Ellwood-Devereux coastline for hundreds of years - starting with the Chumash. Later it was used for cattle and horse grazing and more recently for oil and gas production in the 1920s and 1930s. By the 1960s, residential construction had accelerated nearby, along with development pressures that persisted and, gained momentum during the past two decades.

Public access to the Ellwood open space would occur at 21 trail heads, including existing connections between the Ellwood Main Grove and spots near Coronado Drive.

"Certain trails will be closed because they traverse environmentally sensitive habitat areas such as native grasslands, vernal pools, creeks and/or dune scrub," according to the plan. "Other trails will be closed because they are hazardous. In these situations, nearby parallel trails are maintained to provide similar access. In some cases, trails are closed because they are located parallel to, and in close proximity to, other trails. The trail system will not reduce overall access."

Drivers would be able to park at several locations, including existing spots along nearby residential streets In addition,' a new 40-space lot and restroom would be built next to the Comstock homes project.

UCSB would build a 12-space lot with its faculty housing project, and would improve a lot to provide 20 spaces near El Colegio and Storke roads.

Another possible and controversial 20-space public lot with a restroom and additional 30 spaces for UCSB employees is proposed for Coal Oil Point. If no public parking is put there, an additional 20 spaces would be added to a 20-space lot planned adjacent to Camino Majorca at the Isla Vista border.

Goleta resident Robin Cerderlof, who has followed the process that created the deal, said Monday that she is seriously concerned that a Coal Oil Point lot would create traffic havoc and cause people to park along the roadway leading to the spot. “I don't believe they were thinking very clearly on that,” she said.

An avid equestrian also expressed concern that a looping horse trail through the open space was too restrictive.

The plan forbids camping, motorized vehicles, archery, paintball games, fires of any kind and model rockets with flammable propellants.

Special uses requiring permission include walk-a-thons, cycling competitions, running races, educational tours, outdoor lectures, scientific studies, commercial filming, parachute landings, and hang gliding or para-sailing.

e-mail: mgreen@newspress.com